Homily by Fr. Paul Plante
17th Sunday in Ordinary Time
July 28, 2013
Scriptural Reference: Genesis 18:20-32; Luke 11:1-13
It is evident that the story about the connection between Abraham and God in the Book of Genesis in today’s First Reading and the response of Jesus when asked by his disciples to teach them how to pray, were chosen because they go so well together. Both of them tell us that we are to put our needs, our requests before the Lord. Both speak of persistence in turning to God for help.
To begin with, I hardly think any of us need to learn how to ask God for help, even in favors and as we see Abraham sort of bargaining with God. If the need is great and we come to the conclusion that God alone has the power to do something about a very serious situation, we all know how fervent we can become in our prayers.
In the Genesis story, God is ready to destroy two cities that have a reputation of being dens of iniquity, of sin. To this day, the names of these cities remain symbols of places of evil, Sodom and Gomorrah.
But Abraham knows full well that even in those sinful places, there are some good people. How could God destroy the good with the bad? And the bargaining begins. How many good people does it take for God to spare the city?
Abraham’s presence pays off. God listens to his concern to save those who are good. Abraham’s mercy reflects God’s mercy. As long as there is some goodness God does not back out. May it be a reminder of God’s goodness towards each one of us. There is some sinfulness in all of us but God also sees what is good. God sustains us, giving us time to continue the purification process. Each added day to our existence is an opportunity to become better.
In the Gospel story there are the basic words of what we call the Lord’s Prayer, so important and precious because it was given to us by Jesus himself. Then a story about persistence, not giving up in order to get what we are asking for.
But Jesus also wants to make sure we understand that our requests aren’t always God’s will for us, as much as we think something is really what we want and need, God knows better and therefore will not answer our prayers if something else is really what we need – what God wants for us.
The caring parent judges what a child should have and what should be kept from the child.
To sort of step out of what is evident in the connection between these readings, I could say that we are being told how powerful goodness is over evil; with only a fraction of good people in a city, God is willing to spare everybody, to give everybody another chance, hopefully encouraging to all of us. Don’t we need another chance? Also, that it is evidently OK – good, for us to put our requests before God and to persevere, always knowing however that God knows how best to answer our pleas. If it is something I really believe, this too is confusing, that if I am asking for something that isn’t good for me I know God is so good as to not grant me my request.